Mitsubishi UFJ pays US$250m to settle Iran, Sudan transfer charges

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 3:55am

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial agreed to pay US$250 million to the American state of New York to settle claims it transferred billions of US dollars for countries facing US sanctions including Iran, Sudan and Myanmar.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, the main lending unit of Japan's biggest bank by market value, moved an estimated US$100 billion through the state for government and privately owned entities on the Specially Designated Nationals list issued by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) between 2002 and 2007, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Thursday.

The transfers involved about 28,000 clearing transactions and the bank routinely stripped information from wire transfer messages that could identify countries and people subject to international sanctions, the department said. The agreement follows HSBC's record settlement with the US last year, stemming from sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear programme.

"We have and will continue to take a hard line in rooting out misconduct at banks that threaten our national security," Benjamin Lawsky, the superintendent of the department, said in the statement.

The Bank of Tokyo instructed employees that "in order to avoid freezing of funds" they should "omit" information that could have identified transactions involving an "enemy country", according to the DFS statement.

The bank in 2007 identified the issues cited by the DFS, voluntarily and promptly ceased the practices, reported them to all of its regulators and has been co-operating fully with them, Mitsubishi UFJ said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange yesterday.

The company will retain a consultant approved by the department for a one-year compliance review of the bank's operations, it said.

"We have no higher priority than conducting our business with integrity and full regulatory compliance," a Tokyo-based spokesman for Mitsubishi UFJ said yesterday. "We will continue to work constructively with DFS, the compliance consultant and all our regulators in our key markets around the world."

Mitsubishi UFJ is the largest shareholder in Morgan Stanley. The company was the world's biggest bank when it was created in 2005 through the merger of Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial and UFJ Holdings.